World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA) has praised Devon and Cornwall Police for being one of the leading forces in the country tackling wildlife crime.
Officers have recently been trained to combat bat persecution and have made significant arrests in an investigation into dog-fighting.
Devon and Cornwall are also one of the leading forces in the UK feeding intelligence back to the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). Vitally, this provides an accurate perspective of wildlife crime intelligence across England and Wales.
Sgt David Knight, wildlife crime liaison officer for Devon and Cornwall said: “Devon and Cornwall Police acknowledge the impact that wildlife crime can and does have on both communities and on our fauna and flora. We have embarked on a training programme with partner organisations such as the Cornwall Bat Group, Devon Bat Group and Cornwall College to provide much needed specialised training.
"Devon and Cornwall Police have improved the way in which wildlife crime is recorded following the training of our Command and Control Unit staff. This has led to an increase in the amount of wildlife crime reported which in turn provides us with a clearer picture. We continue to raise the profile of wildlife crime in order to provide reassurance to our rural communities.”
The animal protection charity recently released YouGov opinion polling of UK respondents that demonstrates, of those living in South West England three quarters believe all wildlife crime offences should be made recordable.
The figures follow a UK-wide trend and coincides with the news from the Home Office that from April 2014, some wildlife crime offences now have their own separate classification for police officers when recording these types of crimes.
Until now police forces in England and Wales have not been able to collate wildlife crime offences in one place under Home Office / Ministry of Justice categories which has led to an inability to compile meaningful data upon which a UK-wide enforcement strategy can be based; despite commitments laid out in the Government’s Commitment to Action on the Illegal Wildlife Trade published in February 2014.
World Animal Protection UK director of campaigns and communications, Simon Pope, said: “Devon and Cornwall are paving the way for tackling wildlife crime in the UK by raising awareness and feeding intelligence reports back to the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Their intelligence and arrests show the need for wildlife crime enforcement – the nature of the crimes they are dealing with are currently not featured in the new recorded crime category. We hope evidence of this kind will move the Home Office to broaden their category to include all wildlife crime.”
"World Animal Protection believes that the Government must ensure more offences are included in the wildlife crime category for it to have real impact, for instance all the offences that fall under the Government’s own wildlife crime priorities of badger persecution, bat persecution, poaching, raptor persecution and decline of freshwater pearl mussels.
The new wildlife crime category currently includes 17 offences, and only covers one of the six key priority areas identified by the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s (NWCU) 2013 Strategic Assessment of wildlife crime, all CITES-related offences. 5 Bat persecution and poaching would not fall into the new wildlife crime category.
It is anticipated that the first batch of reporting data to include the separate classification will be passed to the Home Office in October 2014.